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The billionaire Koch brothers, David and Charles of Wichita, Kansas, don't enjoy much obvious clout in San Diego politics, but that could soon change, depending in part on the fate of Republican spearheaded recall efforts to oust Democratic mayor Bob Filner from office.

As reported here in June, mega-millionaire La Jolla-based real estate developer and hotel mogul Douglas Manchester's U-T San Diego has hooked up with a Virginia media non-profit outfit said by the Columbia Journalism Review to be financed in part by the Kochs.

Wrote Manchester's paper: "Today, the U-T San Diego Editorial Board, in partnership with the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, launches a project that we boldly hope will help change the direction of California before the Golden State becomes a failed state."

But what exactly is the Franklin Center and precisely what role is it playing in the U-T crusade? Depending on who's doing the talking, Franklin is either a faithful watchdog of big government or a right-wing plot to destroy legitimate journalism.

According to an April 2 report posted online by the Columbia Journalism Review, "In 2011, fully 95 percent of the Franklin Center’s revenues came from a charity called Donors Trust, whose top contributors were the Koch brothers."

"The Franklin Center’s Vice President of Journalism, Steven Greenhut, told CJR that its donors play no role in shaping its coverage. When we sent Greenhut a list of questions for this piece, Greenhut responded in depth—and promptly published his answers in a strongly worded piece disputing any notion that conservative donors taint Watchdog’s coverage"

In his online reply to the questions posed by CJR, Greenhut wrote:

"You are investigating the sources of our funding, as if there is anything there to actually investigate beyond what you, CPI, Media Matters, the Guardian and other lefty publications have already written."

"Yes, Franklin Center is funded by donors and, no, we do not publish their names to respect their privacy."

"Left-wing journalism enterprises also are funded by donors and often do not publish the names of their donors, but we haven’t seen any reports from CJR on those groups."

"If you believe that conservative donors undermine our journalism, then surely you must believe that liberal donors undermine the journalism done by those outfits."

"Then again, I suspect that the real problem is one of political philosophy: we have a different take on the news than you do."

As it turns out, Greenhut has since switched jobs.

He is now the California columnist for Manchester's U-T San Diego, according to his profile on U-T's website:

Greenhut formerly was vice president of journalism at the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, where he managed a team of 35 investigative reporters and editors who covered state capitols across the country.

He is author of the 2009 book, "Plunder! How Public Employee Unions Are Raiding Treasuries, Controlling Our Lives And Bankrupting the Nation." Greenhut played a critical role in launching "Fixing California," a joint project between the U-T and the Franklin Center.

Of course, when your patrons have that much political cash to throw around, it's sometimes hard not to find yourself in the same money bed with a few self-styled liberal types.

For instance, freshly minted Democrat Nathan Fletcher - who used to be a Republican before he was an independent - has also benefited from Koch brothers cash in the form of a $1000 contribution in November 2009 to his GOP 2010 Assembly campaign from Georgia-Pacific LLC, the giant pulp and paper company based in Atlanta, Georgia that is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the brother’s privately held Koch Industries industrial empire.

A pro-union non-profit called Unionosity.com singled out Georgia Pacific and the Kochs for opprobrium during the battle over Prop 32, the anti-labor union political witholding measure that went down to defeat last year.

Between 2009 and 2010, Georgia-Pacific funneled donations of $1,000 or more to the campaigns of 25 different California state Senators and Assembly members—including the Howard Jarvis-approved Senator Sam Blakeslee, offshore oil drilling advocate Assemblyman Martin Garrick, and Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, whose environmental voting record looks like John Galt’s Christmas list.

The company retains the services of the powerful lobbying firm McHugh, Koepke & Associates. The firm spent much of the past few years attempting to gut provisions of California’s Green Chemistry Initiative–a 2008 law protecting California citizens from exposure to toxic industrial chemicals–on behalf of an Orwellian-named consortium of chemical companies (including Georgia-Pacific) called the Green Chemistry Alliance.

The Kochs gave $4 million to the Yes on 32 forces.

These days Fletcher is a Democrat and working for Qualcomm, the San Diego cell phone giant founded by La Jolla billionaire Irwin Jacobs, a million-dollar-plus Obama backer, who is widely believed to be angling to make Fletcher the next mayor should Filner falter.

Democrat Jacobs has plowed big bucks into his own selection of local non-profit media, including San Diego State University’s public broadcasting operation, also known as KPBS, where the newsroom is named in his honor.

If Filner goes down, Jacobs and Fletcher could find themselves facing off against the GOP's Manchester and his own handpicked choice for mayor, Republican ex-city councilman Carl DeMaio.

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Comments

Lindaslegal Aug. 19, 2013 @ 1:09 p.m.

The FCC used to have laws prohibiting monopolies from owning print, television and radio monopolies in the same regional market. That changed due to billionaires' lobbyists; billionaires who quickly bought up media throughout the U.S. to promote their own political agendas, funded by infomercials that flood the airwaves. (Aren't YOU sick of paying for cable and receiving 20 minutes of programming and 2/3 advertising?!) The power is (hopefully) still with VOTERS who can use their voting power to CHANGE this tidal wave of "big brother" journalism and restore regulation and freedom of speech to individuals and independent reporters. There are efforts to "regulate" the internet, silence talk radio and buy out and close small newspapers (If you read the UT's "North County" section, you'd think news only happens about once every 3 weeks). VOTERS can voice their opinions by posting comments, blogging, cancelling subscriptions and showing up for primaries and elections.

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Bob_Hudson Aug. 19, 2013 @ 1:40 p.m.

Newspapers have always been used to promote the owners political agendas, but no longer: newspaper circulations are down so much that papers have very little political clout.

Television? The traditional over-the-air stations (think channels 6, 8, 10, 39, etc) have had zero political influence over the years, and because of competition from cable, the internet, etc. they too have diminished audiences.

Radio? Except for talk shows (which are a small part of the total radio programming) radio has also had zero political influence. As with TV, radio has not editorialized or otherwise taken stands on issues or candidates. San Diego has no TV or radio stations owned by newspapers, now do most other major markets, but San Diego does have several radio stations owned by one company, Clear Channel. Except for talk shows on their KOGO (whose ratings have gone way down in recent years) there is no politics on Clear Channel stations other than the liberal sentiment that pops up once in comment by their deejays (as with most "entertainers," a decidedly liberal group).

The real truth is that this is the era when even billionaires cannot buy media power. "Broadcasting" has become "narrowcasting" and audiences are so fragmented that no matter how much money you have you can only afford to reach a small percentage of the public. And, more often than not, you are preaching to the choir.

The right has the Kochs and some other corporate donors trying to spread influence, but the left has just as much money being spent on that goal by the labor unions, George Soros and others.

All of your concern about big brother and regulating free speech is off-target: it's not the media owners doing that, not FOX or MSNBC, it's the USA, your government. But sadly, when you are so afraid of different voices and agendas that you wish for regulation to control them, then the voices you agree with will also be quashed.

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glenn Aug. 19, 2013 @ 1:27 p.m.

No doubt Greenhut is a hard core anti-public sector union guy. He believes that public sector unions do not really add value to the employee.

Where private sector unions often do extensive training and enforce work rules to make their employees the best available; Better educated, more reliable / dependable, and more productive. In short they "add value" to the people. Think union apprenticeship programs creating more productive workers.

Whereas public sector unions generally focus on gaining more pay and benefits and do not focus on ability, productivity or measuring the output of their members. Think teachers drive against evaluations.

So he is clear Greenhut is a hard core anti-public union guy, and he is consistent in his position.

As for who will back whom for mayor, I think you may be correct on Fletcher wanting in; but I don't see a Jacobs vs Manchester clash unless Mayor Bob resigns.

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glenn Aug. 19, 2013 @ 1:35 p.m.

One quick Fact Check on: "Republican efforts to oust Democratic mayor Bob Filner from office".

The first shots fired to oust Bob Filner all came from Democrats. Not sure how the recall effort can be branded a Republican effort if the local party is not funding it, a Democrat published the recall intentions first and it appears to be an effort with broad support with much of the leadership coming from registered Democrats. Seems like a slap in the face to Independents and Democrats who are working hard to gather signatures in the recall effort.

To brand the recall effort as a Republican effort does not appear to be true.

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monaghan Aug. 19, 2013 @ 3:35 p.m.

I am sure omission of venal Democrats was a Matt Potter semi-senior moment, as he regularly has outed Democrats in Name Only (Dinos) who have been happy to savage Bob Filner -- Donna Frye, Lynn Schenk, Laurie Black, Francine Busby, Christine Forester, Loretta Gonzalez and others of the male persuasion such as ambitious Todd Gloria.

This has been a bi-partisan lynch mob, aided and abetted by a ravening media in the respective pockets of Irwin Jacobs and Doug Manchester. Disgusting. And now Manchester is bringing in Koch Brothers' "writers."

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Diogenes Aug. 19, 2013 @ 5:11 p.m.

Schenk's secretary told me that she sat on the board of SCE/s Sempra Energy and also represented developers. She was unavailable to help close SONGS. A clearer case of the revolving door you will not find. 8.5 million lives were placed at risk.

In personal conversations with Busby when she was running for congress to make a clean sweep in Washington with her broom - the symbol of her campaign - but before the crash of 2007-2008, she was unaware of any corruption on Wall Street, such as predatory lending and the impending freeze up in derivatives trading in the repurchase market.

These are DINOs or are otherwise unqualified to hold office.

Donna Frye admits that she did not understand the San Diego pension fiasco.

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monaghan Aug. 21, 2013 @ 10:27 a.m.

Blockheadedness is one thing -- Francine Busby, a classic example of the Peter Principle in operation. Perfidy is yet another -- Donna Frye. Political collusion and personal vanity intersect at Lynn Schenk. Some are unqualified to hold elective office and are notable failures at it: Schenk and Busby. But DINOs are all over the place in San Diego -- tailoring their belief systems and public statements and votes, if in office, to what will sell with deep-pocket campaign donors, the right-wing media and their hopes to remain in office forever. Sometimes they are unpleasantly surprised when a genuine liberal populist Democrat like Bob Filner gets elected, and then they come down like an avalanche of litigious lying damsels in distress.

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BlueSouthPark Aug. 19, 2013 @ 1:47 p.m.

It's looking like old home week at the UT, with Koch-funded shooters riding into town with loaded ideological guns cocked.

In 2012, the Fort Worth, Texas, chapter of the Society for Professional Journalists reported that "The Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity, a libertarian organization, gave the four-year-old venture [the failed Texas Watchdog, run and run into the ground by Manchester's new UT watchdog, Trent Seibert] $300,000 to cover its online-only efforts this last year [2012], which was enough to pay six full-time reporters and editors but not enough to keep going."

Seibert tanked the muck-raking blog, saying "I've loved following the money when it comes to dirty officials, but I'm not good at getting the money to run the organization. I'm not a businessman. Part of this is my fault. If I was better at the fundraising side, maybe we'd be around a little bit more." He's not good at lots of things, as we have unfortunately witnessed. That can only mean he has arrived at exactly the right place, the UT, where he can fail with the security of his job assured.

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Founder Aug. 19, 2013 @ 2:35 p.m.

If Mayor Filner, who is un-married, was just a "guy" and did these types of things in a restaurant then nobody would be interested but since he is the Mayor and most if not all the women have personal agenda's the UT has gone way out of their way to make this front page news...

Mayor Filner is the only one that has stood up to special (BIG MONEY) interests and that is why the UT and the other MSM in SD are trying to get him to resign...

Big Development is working overtime trying to take over $an Diego and anyone that thinks differently, is either not paying attention, part of the problem (NIMBY) or is politically naive.

There are Billions to be made all at the taxpayers expense, so expect to see many millions being passed out to gain political influence as the City is bought, *lock, stock and barrel.

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Diogenes Aug. 19, 2013 @ 5:14 p.m.

By the definition of sexual harassment in the Filner case, one-half of all high school boys should be thrown in jail for kissing.

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Bob_Hudson Aug. 19, 2013 @ 6:29 p.m.

Amazing how Filner has turned so many Democrats into sexist pigs who can casually compare sexual harassment by powerful figures to high school hijinks.

Sad, truly sad.

By the way, the mayor today announced that he is genetically predisposed to sexual harassment as his family name in the old country was Feelher before being changed to Filner.

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Founder Aug. 19, 2013 @ 2:38 p.m.

A far better title for this piece would have been:

If Filner goes will the Kochs come?

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Founder Aug. 19, 2013 @ 4:03 p.m.

Never count Mayor Filner out...

The Mayor wanna-be's and all those that support them, on both sides of the aisle, may be in for a big surprise, because the one wild card in San Diego politics just happens to be the World's richest man, who now owns a house in Coronado...

Should he decide that it makes good business sense to promote what Mayor Filner has done to connect San Diego to TJ and Mexico, then he could easily be Mayor Filner's political angel. I know, if I was Mayor Filner, I would never forget all those that thought they could profit from this witch hunt against me and what better public platform to use in order to get even with all of them than being San Diego's Strong Mayor?

Sun Tsu said in his famous book, The Art of War, that in order to win all your battles, you must know not only all about yourself but also all about your enemies...

Mayor Filner is more in touch with himself than ever before and he also now knows who his enemies are. This is not Mayor Filner's first rodeo, remember he is a seasoned Washington DC politician and has plenty of experience surviving in shark infested waters!

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Diogenes Aug. 19, 2013 @ 5:29 p.m.

Julius Caesar proposed to make Gauls citizens of Rome. Caesar had been a Tribune. The Patricians backstabbed him on the Senate floor to preserve their privileged existence, not because he set himself up as Emperor. They begged him to be Emperor just as most of the founding fathers begged George Washington to be king. Only 3% of colonists actually bore arms against the British.

Filner is a man of the people. But few actually want to live free. In 1812, many wanted to return to being subjects of the Crown.

Democracy is non-existent without education and a free press. Money in politics trumps democracy. We see proof of this more and more every day. San Diego is one of the best examples of money controling politics and the press.

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Founder Aug. 19, 2013 @ 5:56 p.m.

That is why I've suggest that we rename it; $an Diego, America's Finest City (for the wealthy)

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monaghan Aug. 21, 2013 @ 10:35 a.m.

I am with you, Diogenes. There is no democracy without education and a free press. This community, this country, are in trouble on both fronts. There is no rule that says good times last forever.

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